Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years Series #1)

( 1900 )

Overview

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, ...

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years Series #1)

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Overview

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

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Editorial Reviews

Newsday
Listen up, Munchkins. Stop your singing, stop the dancing. The Wicked Witch is no longer dead. But not to worry. Gregory Maguire's shrewdly imagined and beautifully written first novel, "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," not only revives her but re-envisions and redeems her for our times.
Lloyd Alexander
A magnificent work, a genuine tour de force.
Los Angeles Times
It's a staggering feat of wordcraft, made no less so by the fact that its boundaries were set decades ago by somebody else. Maguire's larger triumph here is twofold: First, in Elphaba, he has created (re-created? renovated?) one of the great heroines in fantasy literature: a fiery, passionate, unforgettable and ultimately tragic figure. Second, Wicked is the best fantasy novel of ideas I've read since Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast or Frank Herbert's Dune. Would that all books with this much innate consumer appeal were also this good. And vice versa.
USA Today
An outstanding work of imagination.
USA Today
An outstanding work of imagination.
Times-Picayune
Children - children of all ages, as Maguire reminds us in this splendid novel - need witches. Gregory Maguire has taken this figure of childhood fantasy and given her a sensual and powerful nature that will stir adult hearts with fear and longing all over again. It's a brilliant trick - and a remarkable treat.
Commercial Appeal
It is to [Maguire's] everlasting credit that he has succeeded so admirably that his book stands as an independent and inspired whole; it is also very close to being an instant classic.... Maguire has hit a home run his first time at bat. That Wicked is a first novel is remarkable because it is so fully realized, so rich and involving. It is the most seamless interweaving of fantasy and reality since John Crowley's peerless Little, Big, written in poetic language as graceful as a Ray Boldger tap-dance.
John Updike
Amazing novel.
The New Yorker
Los Angeles Times
It's a staggering feat of wordcraft, made no less so by the fact that its boundaries were set decades ago by somebody else. Maguire's larger triumph here is twofold: First, in Elphaba, he has created (re-created? renovated?) one of the great heroines in fantasy literature: a fiery, passionate, unforgettable and ultimately tragic figure. Second, Wicked is the best fantasy novel of ideas I've read since Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast or Frank Herbert's Dune. Would that all books with this much innate consumer appeal were also this good. And vice versa.
USA Today
An outstanding work of imagination.
Boston Phoenix
Wicked is a punch allegory that alludes to everything from Nazi Germany to Nixon's America. It's delightfully over-the-top at times, mixing serious metafiction with subtle humor and even (gasp) witch sex.
New York Newsday
Gregory Maguire's shrewdly imagine first novel... is part fantasy thriller, part psychological study, part political cautionary tale. It's all fascinating. And it's impossible to deny the magic of Gregory Maguire's prose.
Publisher's Weekly
Maguire combines puckish humor and bracing pessimism in this fantastical meditation on good and evil, God and free will, which should...captivate devotees of fantasy.
Memphis Commercial Appeal
It is to [Maguire's] everlasting credit that he has succeeded so admirably that his book stands as an independent and inspired whole; it is also very close to being an instant classic.... Maguire has hit a home run his first time at bat. That Wicked is a first novel is remarkable because it is so fully realized, so rich and involving. It is the most seamless interweaving of fantasy and reality since John Crowley's peerless Little, Big, written in poetic language as graceful as a Ray Boldger tap-dance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060987107
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Series: Wicked Years Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 29,822
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the author of several best-selling adult novels, including Wicked, which was turned into a Broadway musical. His books for younger readers include the picture book Crabby Cratchitt, the novel The Good Liar, and the popular Hamlet Chronicles series. While writing Leaping Beauty, Mr. Maguire sadly became allergic to all creatures great and small. Now he lives in a house without pets, though he is the father of three happy, noisy small children to whom, at this writing, he has not yet developed allergies.

Biography

Raised in a family of writers (his father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet), Gregory Maguire grew up with a great love of books, especially fairy tales and fantasy fiction. He composed his own stories from an early age and released his first book for children, The Lightning Time, in 1978, just two years after graduating from the State University of New York at Albany.

Several other children's book followed, but major recognition eluded Maguire. Then, in 1995, he published his first adult novel. A bold, revisionist view of Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West places one of literature's most reviled characters at the center of a dark dystopian fantasy and raises provocative questions about the very nature of good and evil. Purists criticized Maguire for tampering with a beloved juvenile classic, but the book received generally good reviews (John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, proclaimed it "an amazing novel.") and the enthusiasm of readers catapulted it to the top of the bestseller charts. (Maguire's currency increased even further when the book was turned into the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked in 2003.)

In the wake of his breakthrough novel, Maguire has made something of a specialty out of turning classic children's tales on their heads. He retold the legends of Cinderella and Snow White in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) and Mirror, Mirror (2003); he raised the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge in Lost (2001); and, in 2005, he returned to Oz for Son of a Witch, the long-awaited sequel to Wicked. He has reviewed fantasy fiction for the Sunday New York Times Book Review and has contributed his own articles, essays, and stories to publications like Ploughshares, The Boston Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Horn Book Magazine.

In addition, Maguire has never lost his interest in -- or enthusiasm for -- children's literature. He is the author of The Hamlet Chronicles, a bestselling seven-book series of high-camp mystery-adventures with silly count-down titles like Seven Spiders Spinning and Three Rotten Eggs. He has taught at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and is a founding member of Children's Literature New England (CLNE), a nonprofit organization that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Good To Know

In our interview, Maguire shared some fun facts with us about his life:

"While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. I built terraces with chunks of Monterey jack, had a forest of broccoli florets and a lagoon of Seven Seas salad dressing spooned into a half a honeydew melon. I made reed patches out of scallion tips and walkways out of sesame seeds lined with raisin borders. Driving to the party, I had to brake to avoid a taxi, and by the time the police flagged me down for poor driving skills I was nearly weeping. ‘But Officer, I have a quickly decomposing Hanging Gardens of Babylon to deliver....' Everything had slopped and fallen over and it looked like a tray of vegetable garbage."

"My first job was scooping ice cream at Friendly's in Albany, New York. I hated the work, most of my colleagues, and the uniform, and I more or less lost my taste for ice cream permanently."

"If I hadn't been a writer, I would have tried to be one of the following: An artist (watercolors), a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon (taller but not very much more), an architect (domestic), a teacher. Actually, in one way or another I have done all of the above, but learned pretty quickly that my skills needed more honing for me to charge for my services, and I'd always rather write fiction than hone skills."

"I steal a bit from one of my favorite writers to say, simply, that I enjoy, most of all, old friends and new places. I love to travel. Having small children at home now impedes my efforts a great deal, but I have managed in my time to get to Asia, Africa, most of Europe, and Central America. My wish list of places not yet visited includes India, Denmark, Brazil, and New Zealand, and my wish for friends not yet made includes, in a sense, readers who are about to discover my work, either now or even when I'm no longer among the living. In a sense, in anticipation, I value those friends in a special way."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Albany, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Wicked LP
Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Chapter One

The Root of Evil

From the crumpled bed the wife said, "I think today's the day. Look how low I've gone."

"Today? That would be like you, perverse and inconvenient," said her husband, teasing her, standing at the doorway and looking outward, over the lake, the fields, the forested slopes beyond. He could just make out the chimneys of Rush Margins, breakfast fires smoking. "The worst possible moment for my ministry. Naturally."

The wife yawned. "There's not a lot of choice involved. From what I hear. Your body gets this big and it takes over—if you can't accommodate it, sweetheart, you just get out of its way. It's on a track of its own and nothing stops it now." She pushed herself up, trying to see over the rise of her belly. "I feel like a hostage to myself. Or to the baby."

"Exert some self-control." He came to her side and helped her sit up. "Think of it as a spiritual exercise. Custody of the senses. Bodily as well as ethical continence."

"Self-control?" She laughed, inching toward the edge of the bed. "I have no self left. I'm only a host for the parasite. Where's my self, anyway? Where'd I leave that tired old thing?"

"Think of me." His tone had changed; he meant this.

"Frex"—she headed him off—"when the volcano's ready there's no priest in the world can pray it quiet."

"What will my fellow ministers think?"

"They'll get together and say, 'Brother Frexspar, did you allow your wife to deliver your first child when you had a community problem to solve? How inconsiderate of you;it shows a lack of authority. You're fired from the position.'" She was ribbing him now, for there was no one to fire him. The nearest bishop was too distant to pay attention to the particulars of a unionist cleric in the hinterland.

"It's just such terrible timing."

"I do think you bear half the blame for the timing," she said. "I mean, after all, Frex."

"That's how the thinking goes, but I wonder,"

"You wonder?" She laughed, her head going far back. The line from her ear to the hollow below her throat reminded Frex of an elegant silver ladle. Even in morning disarray, with a belly like a scow, she was majestically good-looking. Her hair had the bright lacquered look of wet fallen oak leaves in sunlight. He blamed her for being born to privilege and admired her efforts to overcome it—and all the while he loved her, too.

"You mean you wonder if you're the father"—she grabbed the bedstead; Frex took hold of her other arm and hauled her half-upright—"or do you question the fatherliness of men in general?" She stood, mammoth, an ambulatory island. Moving out the door at a slug's pace, she laughed at such an idea. He could hear her laughing from the outhouse even as he began to dress for the day's battle.

Frex combed his beard and oiled his scalp. He fastened a clasp of bone and rawhide at the nape of his neck, to keep the hair out of his face, because his expressions today had to be readable from a distance: There could be no fuzziness to his meaning. He applied some coal dust to darken his eyebrows, a smear of red wax on his flat cheeks. He shaded his lips, A handsome priest attracted more penitents than a homely one.

In the kitchen yard Melena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as if inflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and a few eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other. She sang to herself, but only in short phrases. Frex wasn't meant to hear her.

His sober gown buttoned tight to the collar, his sandals strapped on over leggings, Frex took from its hiding place—beneath a chest of drawers—the report sent to him from his fellow minister over in the village of Three Dead Trees. He hid the brown pages within his sash. He had been keeping them from his wife, afraid that she would want to come along—to see the fun, if it was amusing, or to suffer the thrill of it if it was terrifying.

As Frex breathed deeply, readying his lungs for a day of oratory, Melena dangled a wooden spoon in the skillet and stirred the eggs. The tinkle of cowbells sounded across the lake. She did not listen; or she listened but to something else, to something inside her. It was sound without melody—like dream music, remembered for its effect but not for its harmonic distresses and recoveries. She imagined it was the child inside her, humming for happiness. She knew he would be a singing child.

Melena heard Frex inside, beginning to extemporize, warming up, calling forth the rolling phrases of his argument, convincing himself again of his righteousness.

How did that proverb go, the one that Nanny singsonged to her, years ago, in the nursery?

Born in the morning,
Woe without warning;
Afternoon child
Woeful and wild;
Born in the evening,
Woe ends in grieving.
Night baby borning
Same as the morning.

But she remembered this as a joke, fondly. Woe is the natural end of life, yet we go on having babies.

No, said Nanny, an echo in Melena's mind (and editorializing as usual): No, no, you pretty little pampered hussy. We don't go on having babies, that's quite apparent. We only have babies when we're young enough not to know how grim life turns out. Once we really get the full measure of it—we're slow learners, we women—we dry up in disgust and sensibly halt production.

But men don't dry up, Melena objected; they can father to the death.

Ah, we're slow learners, Nanny countered. But they can't learn at all.

"Breakfast," said Melena, spooning eggs onto a wooden plate. Her son would not be as dull as most men. She would raise him up to defy the onward progress of woe.

"It is a time of crisis for our society," recited Frex. For a man who condemned worldly pleasures he ate with elegance. She loved to watch the arabesque of fingers and two forks. She suspected that beneath his righteous asceticism he possessed a hidden longing for the easy life.

"Every day is a great crisis for our society." She was being flip, answering him in the terms men use. Dear thick thing, he didn't hear the irony in her voice.

"We stand at a crossroads. Idolatry looms. Traditional values in jeopardy. Truth under siege and virtue abandoned."

Wicked LP
Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


Prologue: On the Yellow Brick Road     1
Munchkinlanders
The Root of Evil     9
The Clock of the Time Dragon     18
The Birth of a Witch     24
Maladies and Remedies     36
The Quadling Glassblower     53
Geographies of the Seen and the Unseen     64
Child's Play     76
Darkness Abroad     89
Gillikin
Galinda     111
Boq     163
The Charmed Circle     229
City of Emeralds     315
In the Vinkus
The Voyage Out     397
The Jasper Gates of Kiamo Ko     432
Uprisings     508
The Murder and Its Afterlife     585
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First Chapter

Wicked Musical Tie-in Edition
The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Chapter One

Munchkinlanders

The Root of Evil

From the crumpled bed the wife said, "I think today's the day. Look how low I've gone."

"Today? That would be like you, perverse and inconvenient," said her husband, teasing her, standing at the doorway and looking outward, over the lake, the fields, the forested slopes beyond. He could just make out the chimneys of Rush Margins, breakfast fires smoking. "The worst possible moment for my ministry. Naturally."

The wife yawned. "There's not a lot of choice involved. From what I hear. Your body gets this big and it takes over--if you can't accommodate it, sweetheart, you just get out of its way. It's on a track of its own and nothing stops it now." She pushed herself up, trying to see over the rise of her belly. "I feel like a hostage to myself. Or to the baby."

"Exert some self-control." He came to her side and helped her sit up. "Think of it as a spiritual exercise. Custody of the senses. Bodily as well as ethical continence."

"Self-control?" She laughed, inching toward the edge of the bed. "I have no self left. I'm only a host for the parasite. Where's my self, anyway? Where'd I leave that tired old thing?"

"Think of me." His tone had changed; he meant this.

"Frex"--she headed him off--"when the volcano's ready there's no priest in the world can pray it quiet."

"What will my fellow ministers think?"

"They'll get together and say, 'Brother Frexspar, did you allow your wife to deliver your first child when you had a community problem to solve? How inconsiderate of you; it shows a lack of authority. You're fired from the position.'" She was ribbing him now, for there was no one to fire him. The nearest bishop was too distant to pay attention to the particulars of a unionist cleric in the hinterland.

"It's just such terrible timing."

"I do think you bear half the blame for the timing," she said. "I mean, after all, Frex."

"That's how the thinking goes, but I wonder,"

"You wonder?" She laughed, her head going far back. The line from her ear to the hollow below her throat reminded Frex of an elegant silver ladle. Even in morning disarray, with a belly like a scow, she was majestically good-looking. Her hair had the bright lacquered look of wet fallen oak leaves in sunlight. He blamed her for being born to privilege and admired her efforts to overcome it--and all the while he loved her, too.

"You mean you wonder if you're the father"--she grabbed the bedstead; Frex took hold of her other arm and hauled her half-upright--"or do you question the fatherliness of men in general?" She stood, mammoth, an ambulatory island. Moving out the door at a slug's pace, she laughed at such an idea. He could hear her laughing from the outhouse even as he began to dress for the day's battle.

Frex combed his beard and oiled his scalp. He fastened a clasp of bone and rawhide at the nape of his neck, to keep the hair out of his face, because his expressions today had to be readable from a distance: There could be no fuzziness to his meaning. He applied some coal dust to darken his eyebrows, a smear of red wax on his flat cheeks. He shaded his lips, A handsome priest attracted more penitents than a homely one.

In the kitchen yard Melena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as if inflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and a few eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other. She sang to herself, but only in short phrases. Frex wasn't meant to hear her.

His sober gown buttoned tight to the collar, his sandals strapped on over leggings, Frex took from its hiding place--beneath a chest of drawers--the report sent to him from his fellow minister over in the village of Three Dead Trees. He hid the brown pages within his sash. He had been keeping them from his wife, afraid that she would want to come along--to see the fun, if it was amusing, or to suffer the thrill of it if it was terrifying.

As Frex breathed deeply, readying his lungs for a day of oratory, Melena dangled a wooden spoon in the skillet and stirred the eggs. The tinkle of cowbells sounded across the lake. She did not listen; or she listened but to something else, to something inside her. It was sound without melody--like dream music, remembered for its effect but not for its harmonic distresses and recoveries. She imagined it was the child inside her, humming for happiness. She knew he would be a singing child.

Melena heard Frex inside, beginning to extemporize, warming up, calling forth the rolling phrases of his argument, convincing himself again of his righteousness.

How did that proverb go, the one that Nanny singsonged to her, years ago, in the nursery?

Born in the morning,
Woe without warning;
Afternoon child
Woeful and wild;
Born in the evening,
Woe ends in grieving.
Night baby borning
Same as the morning.

But she remembered this as a joke, fondly. Woe is the natural end of life, yet we go on having babies.

No, said Nanny, an echo in Melena's mind (and editorializing as usual): No, no, you pretty little pampered hussy. We don't go on having babies, that's quite apparent. We only have babies when we're young enough not to know how grim life turns out. Once we really get the full measure of it--we're slow learners, we women--we dry up in disgust and sensibly halt production.

But men don't dry up, Melena objected; they can father to the death.

Ah, we're slow learners, Nanny countered. But they can't learn at all.

"Breakfast," said Melena, spooning eggs onto a wooden plate. Her son would not be as dull as most men. She would raise him up to defy the onward progress of woe.

"It is a time of crisis for our society," recited Frex. For a man who condemned worldly pleasures he ate with elegance. She loved to watch the arabesque of fingers and two forks. She suspected that beneath his righteous asceticism he possessed a hidden longing for the easy life.

"Every day is a great crisis for our society." She was being flip, answering him in the terms men use. Dear thick thing, he didn't hear the irony in her voice.

"We stand at a crossroads. Idolatry looms. Traditional values in jeopardy. Truth under siege and virtue abandoned."

Wicked Musical Tie-in Edition
The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
It's hard to pin down the aspect of Gregory Maguire's Wicked that is likely to fascinate book clubs the most. Is it the detail with which the author reimagines L. Frank Baum's fantasy world of Oz? The care with which Maguire takes the classic work and uses it to explore modern issues like justice and equal rights, superficial notions of beauty and ugliness, ecological concerns and domestic violence? Or, perhaps, is it the sheer delight in watching an immensely gifted writer take a set of familiar characters and imbue them with an entirely new life.

Of course, it is the Wicked Witch of the West herself who dominates this time around: Elphaba, as she is called, is now the complicated centerpiece of a story that once seemed to belong to the relatively simple Dorothy. Brilliant, troubled, passionate, and powerful, Elphaba stands in marked contrast to the girl from Kansas, who, on the whole, takes a backseat to the natives of Oz in this version. Maguire's method with Elphaba's tale is to unpack the simple idea of a "wicked witch" and ask the question, How do you get to be "wicked"? The novel offers the possibility that what from one perspective is a simple case of villainy could be, from another point of view, a life that doesn't resolve into a simple set of "good" or "bad" actions. Book clubs will be particularly interested in following how, as a heroine, Elphaba is a strong, deeply modern woman, whose intelligence is both her great strength and a curse almost as powerful as her more fantastic features, emerald skin and monstrous teeth.

Beyond the issues of moral character raised by Elphaba's story, Wicked provides readers with a host of delights, some of which echo the original Oz books and some of which are completely original. Reading groups will find that Maguire's language, and particularly his facility for making the world of Oz both contemporary yet fairy tale–like, provides fertile grounds for conversation about just where the difference between the "fantastic" and the "realistic" can be drawn, a skill which may invite comparisons to writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie.

Reading groups will perhaps find their greatest pleasure in discussing what Maguire has taken from the original book, and how he has altered or mutated Baum's world. Book clubs may even be interested in comparing the famed film version of The Wizard of Oz with the novel, to see what the author has borrowed from that source. In this sense Wicked is far more than a cleverly twisted tale about good and evil witches, Munchkin society, and talking animals -- it is a book that shows how a children's story can become a larger myth for an entire society. Maguire invites us to think about how and why we read fantasy, what we take from it as children, and what we can see in it as adults. Wicked may be "updating" L. Frank Baum's original work, but it also reveals how the original remains so captivating to generations of readers, young and old. Bill Tipper

Reading Group Materials from the Publisher
Summary

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil. Questions for Discussion
  • Gregory Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba (pronounced EL-fa-ba) from the initials of the author of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum-L-F-B-Elphaba. Wicked derives some of its power from the popularity of its source material. Does meeting up with familiar characters and famous fictional situations require more patience and effort on the part of the reader, or less?
  • Wicked flips the Oz we knew from the classic movie on its head. To what extent does Maguire's vision of Oz contradict the Oz we're familiar with? How have Dorothy and the other characters changed or remained the same? Has Wicked changed your conception of the original? If so, how?
  • The novel opens with a scene in which the Witch overhears Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and theTin Woodman gossiping about her. She's "possessed by demons," they say. "She was castrated at birth . . . she was an abused child . . . she's a dangerous tyrant." How does this scene set the stage for the story, and what themes does it introduce?
  • What is the significance of Elphaba's green skin? What are the rewards of being so different, and what are the drawbacks? In Oz -- and in the real world -- what are the meanings associated with the color green, and are any of them pertinent to Elphaba's character?
  • One of Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil. What are the theories that Maguire sets out? Is Elphaba evil? Are her actions evil? Is there such a thing as evil, a free-floating power in the universe like time or gravity? Or is evil an attribute of the actions of human beings? (Hint: Turn to pages 231 and 370 for scenes that will draw you into the conversation.)
  • Discuss the importance of the Clock of the Time Dragon. Does the Clock simply reflect events, or does it shape them? Why is it significant that Elphaba was born inside it? That Turtle Heart was killed by it? What revelations does it offer to Elphaba and the reader when she reencounters it at the end of the book?
  • The first section of the book ends powerfully but enigmatically when the young Elphaba is discovered under the dock, cradled in the paws of a magical beast as if sitting on a throne. How do you interpret this scene, and what do you think it foretells, if anything?
  • The place of Animals in society is an important theme in Wicked. Why does Elphaba make it her mission to fight for Animal rights? How else does social class define Oz, and why?
  • [Galinda] reasoned that because she was beautiful she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet" (page 65). Discuss the transformation of Galinda, shallow Shiz student, to Glinda the Good Witch. How does she change -- and by how much? What is her eventual "significance," both in Oz and in the story?
  • Discuss the ways in which Elphaba's determination and willfulness lend purpose and order to her life, and the cost of being such a strong character. Elphaba isn't the only strong female character in Wicked. How do Nessarose, Glinda, and Sarima deal with the issues of power and control? Where do each of them draw strength from? Is the world of Maguire's Oz more or less patriarchal than millennial America?
  • Wicked is an epic story, built along the lines of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, in which the seeds of Elphaba's destiny are all sown early in the novel. How much of Elphaba's career is predestined, and how much choice does she have? Do you think that she was no more than a puppet of the Wizard or Madame Morrible, as she fears?
  • Early in their unlikely friendship, Galinda catches a glimpse of Elphaba and thinks she "looked like something between an animal and an Animal, like something more than life but not quite Life" (pages 78-79). Discuss the dual, and sometimes contradictory, nature of Elphaba's character. Why does Elphaba insist that she doesn't have a soul?
  • Who or what is Yackle? Where does she appear in the story, and what role does she serve in Elphaba's life? Is she good or evil -- both or neither?
  • Was Elphaba's story essentially a tragedy or a triumph? Did she fail at every major endeavor, and thus fail at life; or because she refused to give up or change to suit the opinions of others, was her life a success? Is there a possibility that Dorothy's "baptismal splash" redeemed Elphaba on her deathbed, or was this the final indignity in a life of miserable mistakes?
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1908 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    Awful

    To start with the positives, this was a wonderful idea for a novel. Unfortunately, the positives end there. Throughout the whole book, Maguire seems to be screaming, 'OH LOOK AT THE CLEVER PARALLELS TO MODERN SOCIETY! AREN'T I CLEVER?!' This impossibly boring, almost maliciously confusing novel is peppered with gratuitous sex scenes that seem to have been placed there to bring your attention back to a storyline that even the author knew was incredibly boring.

    35 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    So who was wicked anyway?

    I saw the Broadway show in February and it was absolutely incredible. Clearly I needed to read the book that this masterpiece was drawn from. A play can only tell a small part of a story so the book had to be amazing. Amazing is a word I would use to describe the book, certainly:

    Amazingly boring. Amazingly bad. Amazingly pretentious.

    I couldn't tell you what the plot was for this book. Every time it seems like the author is going to give us a real plot, he whisks you away to some point in the future. Be prepared to be left hanging. A lot.

    I was constantly waiting to find out more about things that happened in the book. What was the group that Elphie was part of? What did Madam Morrible really do to Glinda, Elphie, and Nessa?

    Things just happen because we're told they happen. Glinda and Elphie are friends, why? Not relevant. You just have to accept that they are.

    The gratuitous sex scenes all seemed out of place as well. Why did the author choose to write them? Was it to shock the reader? They added nothing to the story. I suppose since I would argue there was no real story, that it would be impossible to add to it. The author also had an obsession with urination. I guess the denizens of Oz have bladder control issues.

    This disjointed, plotless, lifeless excuse for a novel was all buried under flowery language. I'm an avid reader and I have no trouble with big words. But as boring as Wicked was, the writing style just made it even more painful to get through.

    It was a painful trip from beginning to end. Go see the musical. They took the idea of what this story wanted to be and made it something exciting and fun. There's a payoff at the end of the musical. There's none at the end of Wicked, other than the fact you don't have to read it any longer.

    32 out of 52 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Unsatisfying

    I must commend Gregory Maguire on his ingenious idea for a novel. I am also very impressed with the thorough creation of the pre-Dorothy world of Oz. Maguire certainly knows how to weave a whole new culture and throw the reader into the middle of it, allowing us to discover for ourselves the intricacies of all the aspects of this new world for ourselves. Other pros: smart, witty, and often funny narration can be found throughout. Excellent and clever musings on the nature of good and evil, plus some interesting thoughts on religion and the existence of a soul. Lots of allusions that are not obviously handed to the reader, but must be discovered by taking a closer look. Some fantastic character development. The plot however left a lot to be desired. This book simply meanders. There are many unresolved or poorly resolved in-book links, and the only links to be found are those that connect with the original Baum story. There are large gaps of time that are inadequately filled in, or addressed only briefly and in an unsatisfying way. The best way I can describe it is that is just... goes. On and on. For pages and pages. Sort of like a diary. Lots of brilliant narration and character development along the way, but nothing adds up within itself. Although some characters I would have liked to see developed more (e.g. the Wizard). No fantastic plot twists, though a few are dangled before our eyes but then never resolved, which is a major disappointment. After checking out the Broadway musical, I am convinced that a novel based on the adapted plot of the show would have been a much more interesting read. That altered story is way more exciting and gratifying than this one. PARENTS BEWARE: pre-teens and younger children looking to find a great companion to the family-friendly Broadway musical will not only be disappointed, but will also find a good deal of R-rated material including sex scenes, an orgy involving bestiality, and a couple scenes of graphic murder plus a few paragraphs detailing gruesome torture.

    21 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    unreadable

    I am going to see the play so I thought I would read the book first. It seems like such a great concept, but terrible in execution. The book veers between vulgar and boring. I only give one star to books I can't even finish, which is rare. Hope the play is much better than this.

    20 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

    A book to borden your view of Oz

    As an avid fan of Wizard of Oz I was always told that "Wicked" would be a great follow up and new take on Oz. I became a fan of the musical adaptation of the book but was told they are greatly different. This fueled me wanting to read the book. It wasn't till recently that I finally did. The book is very well done. The book took the tale classic tale, showing before and how Elphie became the "wicked witch". Elphie's tale makes you wonder was she really wicked and evil or just a girl who's life took turns giving people other ideas about her?
    I can't wait to read the follow up books to the "Wicked" series but i bet they will be just as great as this one.

    All and all wicked is just a great read and should defiantly be added to your collection.

    15 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    One of the Worst I've Ever Read

    Clever idea for a novel, but so slow I don't know how I finished it. I agree with other reviewers that there were really odd and almost lewd sexual scenes that had absolutlely nothing to do with this story. I found myself shaking my head in wonder, asking "What was that about?" over and over again. I really wanted to like this book but I just hated it. I would never be enticed to pick up another book by McGuire.

    13 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by K. Osborn Sullivan for TeensReadToo.com

    Have you ever read a popular book and wondered why it was so popular? That's exactly how I felt as I worked my way through WICKED. Actually, that's not entirely true. I know why it's a New York Times Bestseller. Part of it has to do with the reason I picked the book up in the first place. I expected a light, fairy tale-like story. It's based on a children's book. There's a Broadway musical about it. Sounds like it should be fun, right? Uh, not quite. I get the feeling, though, that a lot of people thought as I did and bought WICKED looking for an easy-to-read lead-up to THE WIZARD OF OZ. I wonder how many of them finished reading the book when they figured out the truth? <BR/><BR/>Although to be fair, WICKED doubtless also owes some of its popularity to the fact that it's a well-written, literary novel that can be appreciated by well-read, literary-type people. Unfortunately, I'm really not one of those. Giving me a piece of deep, meaningful literature is like giving a copy of Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA to a manatee. In other words, I was disappointed. My disappointment was partly in the book for not fulfilling my expectations, and partly in myself for not being able to appreciate a quality literary effort. <BR/><BR/>In case you've been living in a hollowed out tree for the last couple of years and haven't heard about the play, WICKED is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she became the Wicked Witch of the West. The book delves far deeper into the witch's life and times than any musical could in only two hours, however. In the book version of WICKED, readers are introduced to the witch, whose real name is Elphaba, when she is first born. She's green and has dangerous, pointy teeth. Needless to say, she's not too popular with the other children. Even her parents aren't too sure about her. <BR/><BR/>As the story progresses, we see Elphaba at college. She falls in with a number of fellow students, some of whom are more and others less accepting of the strange green girl. It's not just her skin color that's different, though. Elphaba thinks and acts differently than other people. And she has this aversion to water.... Well, we all know how that turns out for her. <BR/><BR/>The book is an interesting departure from the Oz books, including such details as why the Cowardly Lion is able to talk, and the fact that everyone in Oz thought Dorothy's dog, Toto, was the most irritating thing to ever draw breath. I wish, however, that I could have liked some of the characters. No one was particularly likeable, as far as I was concerned. Even Elphaba, who readers should have had some sympathy for, seemed odd to me, and I never understood her motivation for anything she did. In other words, I could have gotten over the fact that she was green, but it really bothered me that she didn't act normal. Also, a word of warning: Even though these are essentially fairy tale characters, this book treats them like adults, complete with sex, swearing, and the occasional murder. Younger readers should steer clear, and older readers should be aware of what's in store here. <BR/><BR/>In general, I recommend this book for OLDER readers who are huge fans of the Oz books or the Wicked play and want to go deeper. According to my husband, who is capable of appreciating fine literature, it also has literary merit. But for those of us who want to keep our memories of the Oz stories as sweet as the old Judy Garland film was, those readers might want to be careful around WICKED.

    13 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2009

    Painfully boring

    Not worth your time or money. We were going to see the musical Wicked and bought the book on CD in preparation. We listened to it on a road trip and found it very boring, extremely wordy and vulgar. There were several parts of the book that were so very disgusting and disturbing that we had to forward through. And there were so many parts of the book where the author chose to be so very unnecessarily vulgar that it left you wondering about his character. Don't waste your time or money on the book. If you are at all curious about it's contents - go see the Musical which makes better sense and is a delight.

    11 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Uggh! Worst read of my life!!

    This book was something that I had been looking forward to for weeks after i had obsessed over the musical and everything about it. I got the book went home to read it and i almost barfed. This book was so bad that i felt like dying. Sure the writer is good, but the book is terrible. First of all, the plot is a doozy to follow. It is really difficult to understand. Second of all there are too many curse words used for my liking. And third, there are really gross scenes in this book. GROSS!!! The musical was 1 million percent better. My sister even threw the book away!!

    9 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Wicked.

    This was a great book in my opinion. Gregory Maguire has a unique writing style and he took L. Frank Baum's characters and made them his own. I am 15 and I found the book to be themed for more mature audiences because of the content. It is a good book for let's say ages 15+. If you want a good adventure and book, read it.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2008

    I adore Elphaba

    The book and movie Wizard of Oz, gave you more in site of Dorthy and her life.Where as the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West was a book that gave you more background of the witch Elphaba(whose skin was green) and her sister Nessarose the Wicked Witch of the east(whose ruby shiny shoes started all the controversy in the beginning).Elphaba's college roommate,Glinda (who is known as the Good Witch of the North).The book opens up with some detail of her mother and father life.It also goes on to tell of her childhood, her life in college,her L.O.V.E life, her break ups, her lost,her motherhood and most of all her revenge.This is book is a must read. It not only tells of the Wicked Witch of the West, but it also re-tells the whole story. I enjoyed it from front to cover. I cant wait to read Son of a Witch. Which tells more in the life of Elphaba son Liir.But Elphaba I have absolutely fell in L.O.V.E with The Wicked Witch of the West. It was nice to reading the very precise detail of the new age fairy tale. I enjoyed this book. Elphaba remind me so much of me!!!L.O.L But if you haven't read this book yet, your missing out on the best re-made fairy tell ever!!!!!!

    8 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2008

    Frank Baum would be appalled by what Maguire did to Oz

    Frank Baum's original tales of Oz were charming in their innocence as a naive farmgirl triumphed over evil through simple means. Wicked strips Oz of all of its delight by recreating Oz as a realm full of moral depravity. The opening scene in the book includes a reference to an adulterous menage a trois between a farmer, his neighbor, and her daughter. Gregory Maguire then goes into detail about a mother who whores about when her husband is absent. Meanwhile, Maguire ridicules organized religious belief systems by creating a ministerial character who secretly seeks homosexual liaisons, including with his wife's adulterous lover. Maguire consistently forgoes continuing plot lines and characters so he can return to the turpitude in which he revels. The second part of the book climaxes in a bestial orgy wherein one of the male characters is sexually bound to a tiger that is simultaneously ravishing a woman. There are no redeeming points to this book, as the writing is sluggish and the plot merely meanders through a series of sexual escapades. This book is not suitable for children. Only adults with a penchant for depravity would enjoy this grossly iniquitous read. By writing this book, Maguire has stolen everything laudable from Frank Baum's original masterpiece and rendered it as filth fit only to be discarded in the nearest cesspool.

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The best book ever :)

    This book was and still is my all time favorite book, I have no complaints. This book takes you to a different land, a whole new world. It was my escape. The best book I ever read.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2008

    Don't Waste Your Money or Your Time

    I was actually excited when I picked this book up. My first thoughts were about the unique plot idea, and the fact that everyone had seemed to recommend it. However, Gregory Maguire sorely disapointed. The writing style was enough to make me seriously consider calling up the publisher that let Wicked pass along their desk and into book stores. Not to mention the horrible charaters who were either too revolved around sex to function or so incredibly unrealistic that the story evaporated. Plus the events of the story sounded more like something I would see on a soap opera than in a book 'other than a cheap romance novel'. I'm really mad that I wasting time reading this book and money to buy this book.

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    FAVORITE BOOK

    Growing up I always loved the wizard of oz and even now it is an obsession of mine. I bought this book when it first came out and fell in love this is by far my favorite book and if you like the wizard of oz even a little you can't afford to miss it! It puts a whole different spin on the way things look in the movie. Read it you'll love it! it's been made into a broadway musical and the music is unbeatable !!!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Slow Near the End

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The characters were interesting, and I was looking forward to learning more about the land of Oz. However, once Part 4: In the Vinkus begins everything goes downhill. The book is SLOW from this point on and, for the most part, ignores the characters you learn about in the first half except for Elphaba. Once Dorothy enters the picture it is even worse. The timeline doesn't seem to line up well. It wasn't a horrible read. I just wish the end was better.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Almost through it part one

    At about page 160 it gets quite unreadable. I think i will have to force my eyes open with paper clips and somehow keep them from watching the paint dry. Not only does it ge tboring, but it salso extremely confusing. As if the author doesnt care at all if the reader is following and enjoying the story.. as a previous reveiw mentioned, its as if the author is writing to show off how clever he is at making a story, an djust lose sthe story completely, HOWEVER, im not finished the book. I will write a part two when im done.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Thrillifying!

    This book was absolutely amazing and it held my interest throughout (which is hard to do) as soon as i was finished i wanted Son of a Witch so I could continue reading.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2009

    Wicked

    Many people know the Wicked from the musicals playing all over the world. These musicals are based on this book. The book is based on the movie The Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West, or Elphaba, travels throughout the land of Oz for various reasons. In her travels she meets many friends which include Glinda, a giddy, popular girl, Boq, a shy Munchkinlander looking for love, and Fiyero, an awkward boy who is nice when he makes friends. Then, towards the end, when the Wicked Witch of the East, or Nessarose, dies, Elphaba goes looking for the shoes that Glinda gave to Dorothy. This is when The movie comes in.
    This book had many strengths and weaknesses. This book was very intense at times and it sometimes left you guessing. Its characters are lovable and its settings are amazingly described. This book also has some weaknesses too. At some points in the book it was very confusing. You didn't know where you were and you didn't know who was talking. Also, I think there were too many characters. It was hard to keep track of how many characters were in the scene and how did what. It was just too confusing at times. Overall, this book was an excellent book. Tyler.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    Not an acurate portrayal of Oz

    This book is well written. THe story is marvelous. Who can complain? The answer to that would be anyone who has read any of Lyman Frank Baum's original Oz books. Although Wicked is a great way of showing the 'real story' behind the wicked witch of the west, it has no supporting evidence. The wizard is made out to be a horrible person taking control and ruining Oz. In all honesty, the wizard was just a balloonist blown astray. no harm in that. The timing is horrible. For serious readers, I would not reccomend this book. However, if you do not care about the accuracy and preservation of good fiction, by all means, read this book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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